Who is King?



1 Samuel 15[i]

Saul was Israel's first King. 

The people insisted they wanted a king.  God chose a man they would like.  He was the son of a wealthy, influential man named Kish.  1 Samuel 9:2 tells us, "His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel – head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land."

Saul proved to be just what the people wanted.

1 Samuel 14:47-48 tells us:
Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines.  And wherever he turned, he was victorious.  He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them.

However, some of what the Lord had warned the people about happened early in the reign of Saul.  1 Samuel 14:52 tells us, “The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime.  So whenever Saul observed a young man who was brave and strong, he drafted him into his army.”  In chapter 8 of
1 Samuel, the Lord warned Israel that a king would takes their sons, and this started early in the reign of the first king.

As Saul solidified his position as King and Israel’s standing as a nation, it was necessary for him to do a lot of fighting.  The Lord's blessing is obvious in that wherever he turned he was victorious.  He also was a man of valor.  1 Samuel 14:48 says, "He performed great deeds."  This is just what the people wanted.  They wanted a man of valor who would go before them in battle and be victorious.

After Saul was established as King, 1 Samuel 15:1 tells us, “One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the LORD who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel.  Now listen to this message from the LORD!”  We see in this verse that the Lord establishes his authority.  The Lord caused Saul to be anointed King.  The people are described as the Lord's people.  Therefore, although Saul was king, he was under the authority of God.  He answered to God, and now God had something for him to do.

This is what this article is about today.  "Who is king?"  Saul was king, but he ruled under the King of Kings. 

Each one of us has a sphere of influence or authority.  We have that jurisdiction over which we have the freedom and the authority to make decisions.  It may be as small as the right to choose which game to play or which doll to pull out of the toy box.  Or, it may be the right to choose which career to pursue.  Each person has the right and authority to make decisions regarding their own life.  Some people are entrusted with the authority to make decisions affecting groups of people.

However, each person answers to a higher authority and we all must give an account to God for how we conduct ourselves in this life.  Saul, the King, was no different.  God had made him king and God had authority over him as king.

Therefore, God gave the following instructions:
I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt.  Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.  1 Samuel 15:2-3

When God said to completely destroy the Amalekite nation, he used a term that Saul would have been familiar with.  The term meant to devote something to destruction.  As an example of what this means, we can consider what happened when Israel attacked Jericho.  Joshua 6 tells us that God specified that Jericho was to be devoted to destruction.  Everything living was to be killed.  Everything perishable was to be burnt, and everything made from silver, gold, bronze or iron was to be taking into the treasury of the Lord because it was sacred to him.

There was a man named Achan.  When Israel invaded Jericho, Achan saw some beautiful clothing and some silver and gold, so he kept them for himself, hiding them under his tent.  In the next battle, Israel was defeated by a tiny nation, and 36 of Israel's warriors died.  Achan’s sin was exposed as the cause of Israel’s defeat, and Achan’s whole family died in God's judgment.

Saul knew and understood this history.  When Samuel said to completely destroy the Amalekite nation, Saul knew what was expected.  However, “Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them.  They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.”  1 Samuel 15:9

Notice the words "everything, in fact, that appealed to them."  This is a clue for us as to where Saul's heart was.

There is another clue in 1 Samuel 15:12 where it says, “Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself.”

Who is king?  Saul is king!

Agag was important only as a trophy of war to bolster Saul’s self-esteem. A monument was important only as a reminder to bolster Saul’s self-esteem. 1 Samuel 15:17 says, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel?  The LORD has anointed you king of Israel.”  The English Standard Version translates this, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel?  The LORD anointed you king over Israel.”

From the monument and the reminder from God of Saul’s anointing, we can gather that Saul’s feelings about himself are involved.

Now let’s see what God says about Saul.  In 1 Samuel 15:11, God says, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.”  The English Standard Version says, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”  Saul turned back from following God.  He was disloyal.

The New Testament warns us believers against having such a heart.  It says:
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.  James 1:6-8

This is a picture of Saul, or perhaps Saul is a picture of the person whose loyalty is divided.  According to this passage from James, the problem is the person’s faith is not in God alone.  Other translations translate this as to ask in faith without doubting or wavering.

Faith and our divided loyalties are connected.  The Bible tells us that friendship with the world means enmity with God.  (James 4:4) 

We see two things in Saul’s story that were at the root of his downfall. 

The first was his attraction to the material blessings the world has to offer. 

The second was his thoughts about himself and his position.

These fall right in line with what the New Testament tells us the world has to offer.  1 John 2:16 says, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”  Saul displayed “a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements.”  This is where his friendship with the world started.  This brought about enmity with God, divided loyalty and doubts.

Considering what God had done for him, why would Saul have been disloyal?

God had raised Saul up from obscurity to a place of power, influence, riches and fame.  However, as much as we might seek these things, they never satisfy the deepest needs of the soul.

Consider what God has done for you.

He gave His one and only Son to die in your place and to pay the price for your sins.  We may try to deny it, but we are a selfish, greedy, sinful people along with the rest of humanity.  Each of us deserved to be up there on that cross, but Jesus took our place.

However, God did not stop with paying the price for our sins.  Along with His Son, He has also blessed us with everything we need for life and godliness.  He has blessed us with heavenly riches and spiritual blessings.  He has given us His Holy Spirit and His promises.  2 Peter 1:4 tells us, “These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption caused by human desires.”

Why would we have divided loyalties?

Who is king of your life?

When God asks for a tenth of all He gives you, do you draw back?

When God tells you to forgive those who sin against you, do you hesitate?

When God tells you to love your neighbor as yourself, do you wholeheartedly comply?



[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.  Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.

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